Friday, 19 February 2010


Directed By Johannes Roberts

Rated: 18
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Running Time: 75 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Full Frame
Dolby Digital 5.1

Let me preface this review with a little personal information. I hate mobile phones, and do not own one (if you ever speak to anyone who knows me, they will readily confirm this fact). Don't get me wrong, I think they are a neat little gadget, but for me the bad outweighs the good. I hate gormless morons who blithely walk around transfixed by their mobile phone and utterly oblivious to all that is around them. I also hate 'comedy' ringtones, and is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the more stultifyingly banal the 'conversation', the louder the brain-dead numpties are obliged to speak to have it?

I also hate that toerag off of the so-obviously-manufactured-it-isn't-funny T-Mobile adverts with his cacophonious attempt at a band. Now that I come to think of it, I'm not particularly fond of the ads for iPhone either, wherein they expect us to bow down in awe-struck reverence of 'Apps' that perform the simplest task imaginable (to anyone with a modicum of initiative) as if beholding the reinvention of the wheel. 'Can't remember how to tie your shoelaces? There's an App for that too!' says the condescending voiceover guy.

So, when it comes to mobile phones, it's fair to say that I am the very antithesis of Ashley Cole.

Does anyone remember that old Phones4U ad with New Zealand's very own Flight Of The Conchords in the VW Camper with a PA system singing a song which contained the lyric 'Set it to vibrate, shake your derriere...BUZZ!'? I bet Ashley Cole does...

I'm just telling you this so that you know where we stand before we begin, as 'When Evil Calls' was shot with the explicit intent of being viewed via mobile phone (and other such mobile devices), in an episodic format. What's more, the plotline revolves around mobile phones as well. As you can well imagine, I duly waited for the DVD, so without further ado, here's the review...

The basic premise revolves around an evil supernatural clown who grants wishes to hapless teenagers. They receive a text teling them they've won a wish, and they are told to text their wish to make it come true. True to form, the wishes do come true, but there are dire consequences, and I'm not talking about jacked up call charges either.

Clowning around

We're talking Wishmaster/Bedazzled territory here (with perhaps the merest hint of Stephen King's 'It' because of the clown), wherein the vengeful and malevolent entity granting the wishes punishes the wisher for their verbal ambiguity and infelicitous language. You know the sort of thing...a seemingly-harmless utterance of 'I want my boyfriend to eat my pussy' means a cunnilinguistically-inclined wish instead manifests itself as coochie cannibalism, or indeed literal gynophagia if you prefer. The old cautionary tale of 'Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it', basically.

Now that's what I call a lovebite!

There are some names you might recognise in the cast, such as Dominic Pinon, Jamie Winstone, Jennifer Lim and Chris Barrie amongst others. Of course, if you are an unreconstructed pervert like me, you will also recognise the name (and other notable attributes) of Page 3 girl Vikki Blows.

I'm going to resist the temptation to do a pun on her surname...

Oddly enough, one of the other segments involves quite a bit of nudity, but without spoiling the surprise let me just say that like all of the wishes, there's a most disquieting downside to it...still, it's fun while it lasts, eh?

Fact: Netball played by hot naked girls would draw bigger TV audiences and make more money than the NBA

In an attempt to disguise the episodic nature of the beast and flesh it out into a more linear narrative, the producers have enlisted Sean Pertwee as the school caretaker to act as a narrator of sorts.

Sean Pertwee as our humble (and foul tempered) narrator...

These sequences are shot in POV, with the viewer ostensibly cast as a bullied pupil who is taking refuge from a gang of miscreants in the janitor's shed. It's quite the one man show on Pertwee's part, and he does get to reel off some absolutely criminal one-liners too.

Poor girl...she just couldn't 'weight' to be thin.

Having said that, I don't think any amount of effort would disguise the fact that this is a collection of episodes as opposed to a singular narrative (even though there is a definite running order and inter-episode continuity), but at least they've had a go at it. It just feels a bit 'grafted on after the fact'. With 20/20 hindsight, it's easy to play armchair producer and say that they should have shot extra footage to redress or minimise the episodic nature, but it's more than likely that the budget for such material didn't exist at the time of shooting, nor was the possibility of a DVD release set in stone either.

Personally, I'm not bothered. Whilst it's not an engaging film in the traditional sense, I believe it's ultimately a matter of perspective. If one chooses to view it as a collection of loosely interwoven short films, then it hits the spot rather nicely. If you go in expecting a fully-realised and traditionally-paced feature, then I dare say you are going to come out disappointed.

I was going to wish for something very obvious involving Vikki Blows, but, given the fact you can die if you get an air bubble in your bloodstream, and that the clown granting these wishes would no doubt use the ambiguity of 'Blow' to do me in, I've decided against it.

The constant repetition of the mobile phone graphics everytime a wish is granted renders any attempt at a more prolonged, linear narrative null and void. It's the old 'apples and oranges' scenario, but fortunately enough I just happen to like both.

Thus I can fully understand why some reviewers have buried this, simply because as a stand-alone feature, it's certainly lacking. Also, I'd say said situation would also be compounded if they had paid anywhere near a new DVD release price for it as well.

On the other hand, having chosen to view it instead as a grab bag of shorts, and having paid a comparative pittance for it, I personally found it rather passable. As with any such endeavour, you're going to like some episodes more than others, one man's wine being another man's poison and all that, but given the amount of individual episodes on the disc, you're sure to find something that will tickle your fancy, and most likely come to the conclusion that the good roughly outweighs the bad.

I can't recall the exact price I paid for this off of Ebay (I think it was either £1.04 or £1.24, postage included), but it's certainly value for money at that price. Having watched it, I probably wouldn't pay over a fiver for it myself and thus would advise you likewise. It's certainly of interest to anyone who likes Johannes Roberts' work, or low-budget British filmmaking in general.

This is my favourite part in the Behind-The-Scenes Featurette...

There's also some Trailers and a 'Making Of' featurette on the disc, although if you watch half as much of Zone Horror as I do, then you've probably seen it already. Such is life! Still, it does provide an interesting behind-the-scenes glimpse.

I'll be reviewing some more of Johannes Roberts' work in the coming weeks as I think he's a director deserving of attention. I've already got Forest Of The Damned on the shelf, plus Sanitarium and Darkhunters currently on their way to me...just got to sniff out a copy of Hellbreeder and I'll be all set.

In closing, I'd just like to say that I still hate mobile phones with a passion, and that 'When Evil Calls' did not influence my views on the matter one way or another, nor did my views on mobile phones influence my opinion on 'When Evil Calls'.

Having finally sat down and watched 'When Evil Calls', I must say I am now quietly curious about checking out the DVD cut of Hammer's 'Beyond The Rave', a project with a vaguely similar episodic genesis (as well as the shared involvement of both Lois Winstone and producer Ben Grass of Pure Grass). I must admit to having found the episodes of 'Beyond The Rave' to be nothing short of torturous, even more so when considering that it came out under the Hammer aegis. I can't honestly believe that they could improve upon the raw material that much, but I may very well be proven wrong. I'm just not prepared to pay £15 or so for the privilege of finding out.

I'm not against 'multi-platform' media products (or 'MP²'...I'm trademarking that. You heard it here first!) such as these, it's just that the proper pre-planning needs to be done from the script stage onward so that the product can be extended, cut down, combined or separated relatively seamlessly so that no version is an obvious 'poor relation'. It's certainly an interesting and novel development, but whether it's merely a flash in the pan or a nascent form of media production, only time will tell.

Me, I'll just wait for the DVD, thank you very much. I couldn't live with the thought of my money going towards the sort of prats that invariably populate mobile phone adverts. Believe it!

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